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Outdoor smoking not a health issue

| March 16, 2015

A councilor with the City Council of Banks, Oregon, has made the point that banning tobacco smoking in public parks is about preference not public health, according to a story by Samantha Swindler for The Oregonian.

When a ban was last discussed in September, councilor Mark Gregg was one of its most vocal opponents.

But by the time that the council had revisited the issue this month he had softened his stance.

He said he could support a ban if that’s what residents wanted, but he wanted references to outdoor smoking as a ‘public health risk’ stricken from the ordinance.

“If our citizens want it, I’m fine with it. I just want to remove saying this is [about] public health,” he said.

Hungary moves to save tobacco farm jobs

| March 16, 2015

The Hungarian Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that it would allocate HUF5 billion (US$17.2 million) in subsidies to tobacco growers during the next two years, according to a Hungary Around the Clock story relayed by the TMA.

The subsidies are part of an effort being made to sustain nearly 20,000 jobs in the sector, especially in the counties of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg and Bács-Kiskun.

The ministry plans to disburse HUF3.5 billion (US$12 million) this year and HUF1.5 billion (US$5.2 million) during 2016.

Direct EU subsidies for the production of tobacco have been phased out.

The EU Commission is on record as saying that it cannot pursue policies that encourage leaf tobacco production, while at the same time aiming to protect citizens from the hazardous effects of tobacco consumption.

Does illegal trade agreement have discharge clause?

| March 16, 2015

The EU Commission has been asked whether a 2010 agreement between British American Tobacco (BAT) and the EU includes a discharge clause releasing the company from ‘any civil claims arising out of past conduct relating to the illicit trade’.

The question, which in the normal way of things will be the subject of a written answer by the Commission, has been posed by Bart Staes, a Belgian politician and MEP for Flanders.

In a preamble to his question, Staes said that on July 15, 2010, BAT had signed an agreement with the EU to combat the illegal trade in tobacco.

‘A press release from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the UK suggests that the BAT agreement has a discharge clause that releases the company from past liability for smuggling, noting that “the manufacturers (BAT) are released from any civil claims arising out of past conduct relating to illicit trade”,’ Staes said.

‘On the OLAF website no information is provided on the existence of such a clause.’

Staes asked the Commission to confirm or deny that such a clause exists in the 2010 tobacco agreement concluded between BAT and the EU.

Tobacco Or Health conference about to kick off

| March 16, 2015

The World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) is due to start in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

This, the 16th WCTOH, has been billed as a five-day scientific conference for the presentation of the latest developments in tobacco control and global efforts to reduce tobacco use in all its forms.

It is scheduled to be held on March 17-21.

Reemtsma Liberty Award goes to radio journalist

| March 16, 2015

Reporter Martin Durm has been presented with the 2015 Reemtsma Liberty Award for his coverage of the civil war in Syria.

Now in its ninth year, the award, presented by Imperial Tobacco’s German subsidiary, recognizes foreign correspondents working to sustain freedom of the press under harsh conditions.

The decision to present the award to Durm was made by a jury of prominent German journalists and media experts.

Durm, a journalist with Germany’s SWR2 radio station, won praise from the jury for his feature ‘Syrian Inferno – a civil war escalates’.

The award was presented by German television presenter Ingo Zamperoni at a gala ceremony in Berlin, which included a keynote speech by Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Durm receives his award at an event in Berlin.

Durm receives his award at an event in Berlin.

Commission: no opinions on plain pack proposals

| March 13, 2015

The EU Commission has not delivered opinions on the recent notifications by Ireland and the UK relating to the introduction of standardized tobacco packaging.

Legislation requiring the imposition of such packaging has been passed by Ireland, and has been passed by the UK’s lower house in respect of England.

Tobacco companies have said they will sue the Irish government over the legislation and have threatened to sue the UK government if it is passed there in the upper house.

The Commission declared that it had not delivered opinions on the notifications in answer to a question from the Hungarian MEP, Norbert Erdős, who had asked a series of questions relating to the future of the European leaf tobacco producing sector.

His second question asked: ‘How will the Commission guarantee that generic (neutral) packaging does not lead to a price war between processers, who will do anything to maintain their market position, pushing down procurement prices for raw materials, thus squeezing out better quality tobacco?’

In reply, the Commission said that if a member state planned to introduce any provision on technical standards and regulations, it had to notify the Commission of the draft legislation. ‘It is assessed under Directive 98/34/EC which is a tool for assessing its compliance with EU law before adoption,’ the Commission said. ‘The assessment is based on information provided, scientific studies and impact assessments relating to various stakeholders. The Commission did not deliver an opinion on the recent UK and Irish notifications relating to plain packaging.’

Erdős had asked also what effect would the ending of EU subsidies for tobacco production have on smoking and on public health. And how did the Commission propose to prevent imports of less tightly controlled or illegally imported tobacco from gaining ground?

In reply, the Commission said that it could not pursue policies that encouraged leaf tobacco production, while at the same time aiming to protect citizens from the hazardous effects of tobacco consumption. Direct subsidies for production of tobacco had been phased out. ‘The Commission is committed to fighting the illicit trade in tobacco products together with member states and has presented its strategy in June 2013,’ it said. ‘Also the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) contains strict measures in this respect.’

Finally, Erdős asked how the Commission proposed to resolve the issue of employing the mostly unskilled people who had lost their jobs thanks to the phasing out of tobacco production.

The Commission said that with any structural changes in tobacco production the EU rural development policy offered numerous instruments that provided financial assistance for the re-orientation of the tobacco sector towards alternative sources of income. ‘Provided that the workers’ redundancies can be linked to trade related globalisation or to the global financial and economic crisis, member states have the possibility to apply for support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF),’ the Commission said.

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